SOUTH LOOP — Chicago's about to get a new neighborhood.
Some 62 acres of undeveloped land roughly from Roosevelt Road to 16th Street on the east side of the Chicago River will be developed into thousands of homes, office space and stores after a developer reached a deal to take over the property after a year of negotiations.
The massive project at Roosevelt and Clark Street will be led by Chicago-based Related Midwest, which reportedly closed on its deal to buy the land this week after reaching an agreement with its current owner a year ago.
In a statement issued Thursday, the mayor's office referred to the development as "a new riverfront neighborhood" coming to Chicago that will "serve as a much-needed connection between the Loop and Chinatown and improve community access to the riverfront.
“This will be one of the largest development projects in Chicago’s history, and I look forward to working with our private partners to transform this site and create economic opportunities for residents in every part of Chicago,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in the statement.
The site was once owned by disgraced political fixer Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who once planned to build more than 4,000 homes on the property a decade ago, but was convicted and incarcerated on charges of using his political connections in a kickback scheme. Nothing was ever built.
The project would be the biggest here for Related Midwest, which also owns the lakefront site once pegged for the now-defunct Chicago Spire. Related Midwest president Curt Bailey said "as Chicagoans, we are not in the habit of making small plans" and estimated the project south of the Loop would take 15 years to complete and cost billions of dollars.
In a statement, Bailey said that the developer plans to "work very closely with the city to set an achievable timeline for this important project."
"We have a long history of creating neighborhood developments and look forward to together creating what is sure to be a catalyst for economic development, job creation, and ultimately, a great new community for our city," Bailey said in the statement.
The announcement from the mayor's office Thursday referred to the project as "one of the largest development projects in Chicago's history."
Rezko sold the land in 2005 to General Mediterranean Holdings, a Luxembourg company owned by Nadhmi Auchi, who was convicted in a French corruption scandal in 2003. Emanuel in 2014 threatened to seize the undeveloped tract via eminent domain but dropped those plans after Related Midwest signed a letter of intent to buy the site a year ago.
General Mediterranean will remain a part owner of the property through the deal, but Related will be the new project's lead developer.
The property is referred to by some as Rezkoland. A handful of tents shelter the homeless there.
The project would be the latest high-profile development in the area south of the Loop, where three new supertall skyscrapers are planned and construction is underway on a 3,600-home development near Harrison and Wells streets. A developer also has a contract to take over the massive and long-vacant Old Main Post Office straddling the Eisenhower Expressway nearby.
A prolific developer, Related Midwest has a history of acquiring and redeveloping distressed development sites. Aside from the Spire, Related has also taken over and sold out failed condominium towers near the Museum Campus and finished an aborted recession-era tower on Wacker Drive. The developer is also building a new park and 67-story tower in Streeterville.
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